Two Top Production Chiefs at Tesla to Leave Ahead of Releasing Company’s Most Important Car Yet

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors Inc., introduces the Model X car at the company's headquarters  Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, in Fremont, Calif. Musk said the Model X sets a new bar for automotive engineering, with unique features like rear falcon-wing doors, which open upward, and a driver's door that opens on approach and closes itself when the driver is inside. (PHOTO CREDIT: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors Inc., introduces the Model X car at the company’s headquarters Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, in Fremont, Calif. Musk said the Model X sets a new bar for automotive engineering, with unique features like rear falcon-wing doors, which open upward, and a driver’s door that opens on approach and closes itself when the driver is inside. (PHOTO CREDIT: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Two top manufacturing executives are leaving Tesla Motors Inc., including the global head of production, at a time when the electric-car company is about to release its most important car: the mass-production Model 3.

Greg Reichow, Tesla’s vice president of production and one of its highest-paid executives, and Josh Ensign, vice president of manufacturing, will leave the company. A Tesla spokesperson confirmed both departures and said Reichow will remain until his replacement is found.

A person familiar with the situation who isn’t authorized to speak about the matter said the executive changes are linked to delays, glitches, and a recall that have bedeviled Tesla’s Model X. Tesla denied any connection between the departures and production problems with its SUV. “This is not about the Model X,” said a Tesla spokesperson. “After being at Tesla for over five years and leading its production team for the past three years, Greg Reichow has announced his intention to take a leave of absence from Tesla so that he can have a well-earned break.”

The latest high-level personnel changes brings to five the total number of Tesla vice presidents who have left the company this year, and Reichow marks the biggest departure. He served as the leader of car production and had been one of Tesla’s highest-compensated employees, making almost $6.4 million in cash, stock, and options in the last two years, according to company filings. Tesla did not elaborate on Ensign’s plan to leave.

“Greg and the team deserve a lot of credit for building an all-new manufacturing organization from the ground up and for making Model S and Model X a reality,” said Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk in an e-mail to Bloomberg. “We’re confident that with the strength of the team, high-quality manufacturing at Tesla will continue.” In the same e-mail provided by Tesla, Reichow added: “My belief in Tesla’s ability to successfully deliver great cars and inspire the world to drive electric remains as strong as ever.”

While Tesla described Reichow’s exit as a leave of absence—and other executives have left and rejoined—the company also said Reichow will be involved in handing off his responsibilities to a successor to ensure uninterrupted production.

The launch of Tesla’s Model X, which Reichow helped oversee, was marred by delays. Musk has publicly taken responsibility for what he described as engineering “hubris” that packed too many new features into the first version of the SUV, including the double-hinged “falcon-wing” doors and mono-post seats. The Model X was delayed by more than 18 months, following missed launch dates for previous models. Several thousand of the earliest Model X vehicles were recalled over problems with the seats.

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SOURCE: Bloomberg, Tom Randall